Last week, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced the Department of Labor’s planned launch of an ambitious new public awareness campaign called "We Can Help." The campaign, set to debut in early 2010, is designed to help inform workers about their rights under federal wage and hour laws.
Solis said the DOL will be working with "advocacy groups and other stakeholders" to develop and distribute campaign materials to workers. She noted that this initiative signifies her intent to increase both employee outreach efforts and enforcement efforts against employers who are accused of violating the law. Solis had a strong rebuke for employers who are not in compliance with minimum wage and overtime standards: "There is no excuse for employers who disregard federal labor standards – especially those that are designed to protect the most vulnerable in the workplace."
To help support this effort, Solis has hired 250 new wage and hour investigators, who she says will ensure that the DOL can properly respond to complaints and "undertake more targeted enforcement." Solis vows that the DOL "will not rest until the law is followed by every employer."
We have commented previously that the federal agencies charged with enforcing workplace protection laws, such as EEOC, OSHA, and NLRB, all have indicated that they will be pursuing employee complaints more aggressively. Solis’ recent announcement is yet another example that the Obama administration is taking a more employee friendly approach to federal enforcement. Employers should be taking steps now to ensure that their pay practices comply with the FLSA and applicable state wage and hour laws, which may include a privileged pay practices audit by experienced legal counsel.